Setting foot in Singapore is like stepping into the future.
In less than two centuries, passionate migrants from China, India, Malaysia and Europe have transformed the tiny island-nation from a free trading port into one of the world’s most advanced metropolises.
From the award-winning Changi Airport to the colourful Gardens by the Bay, the futuristic city-state has artfully blended old and new to become a global leader in design, technology, sustainable living and environmentalism.
Travellers looking to be inspired by this forward thinking city should head straight from the airport to Marina Bay, the capital of all things modern and stylish.
On the way, you might catch a glimpse of a driverless car. Autonomous robo taxis have been cruising the city’s streets since last year, as part of Singapore’s goal of becoming a ‘Smart Nation’ of 100 million connected objects capable of everything from allocating parking spaces to controlling pollution.
But the city’s passionate commitment to transforming itself into a tech-haven hasn’t come at the expense of the environment. Ranked as Asia’s most eco-friendly city by the Environmental Performance Index, green living is at the heart of Singapore’s vision for the future.
A must-see for anyone with an interest in environmental sustainability and beautiful botanicals, the Gardens by the Bay is a nature park spanning 101 hectares (250 acres) of reclaimed land in the middle of the Bay. It is a key feature in the city’s plan to become a ‘City in a Garden’. Set in the heart of Singapore’s bustling downtown, the park is made up of three waterfront gardens and the alien-like Supertree Grove.
One of Singapore’s most recognisable landmarks, the Supertrees are an incredible otherworldly presence, home to more than 200 species of plants. Eleven of the trees are embedded with environmentally sustainable functions, including solar energy cells that make them self-sustaining.
Whatever you’re passionate about, a stroll among the glittering techno-canopies of the OCBC Skyway is sure to inspire.
You can continue your discovery of Singapore’s commitment to futuristic development by stopping off at the park’s two conservatories: the Cloud Forest and the Flower Dome. A testament to sustainable engineering, the glass biomes utilise a suite of cutting-edge technologies to minimise solar heat gain, cool only the occupied zones, de-humidify the air before cooling, generate energy and harness waste heat. Environmentalists will also want to be sure they check out the world’s tallest indoor waterfall, the 35-meter (115-foot) Cloud Mountain.
When you’re suitably impressed with the cutting-edge downtown area, head to Joo Chiat Road to experience the city’s historic roots.
Designated Singapore’s first ‘heritage town’, the area is home to rows of vibrant shophouses – a hallmark of the Peranakans, locally born descendants of Chinese migrants. The colourful shops and eateries stand in stark contrast to the contemporary splendour of the Gardens By the Bay, and are a vivid reminder of how the city was transformed by passionate people from all walks of life.
Once you’ve had a taste of Singapore’s historic culture, head back to the future for a cocktail in the sky. 1-Altitude is the highest alfresco bar in the world and LeVeL33, on the 33rd floor of the Marina Bay Financial Centre, has the highest urban craft brewery in the world.
If you fancy something a little more exclusive, cosy up in a private cable-car cabin to take in the lights of Singapore’s cityscape with Dining on Cloud 9. Starting with a welcome drink, the experience consists of three rounds on the cable car with accompanying first, second and third courses served on each go-round. It’s the perfect vantage point from which to take in the city, and we really can’t imagine a more perfect way to take in this transformative city than with a meal in the clouds.